Tag Archives: contemporary romance

Larissa Ione – “Snowbound”

15 Feb

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Samhain Publishing, 2007

SERIES:

WHY THIS NOVEL: I had a gift certificate for an online ebook shop, this was available for a reduced price.

Passion hot enough to melt the slopesand their hearts. Thanks to a devastating medical diagnosis, ski patroller Sean Trenton has endured two years of celibacy. Two long years that have chipped away at his confidence. Now, with the career opportunity of a lifetime on the line, he’s ready to remedy the celibacy situation, and sexy snowbunny Robyn Montgomery is just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, the last thing reliable, intense radio station manager Robyn Montgomery wants in her suddenly turbulent professional and personal life is a thrill-seeking former Olympic skier even if he is a total hottie. Shes had it with guys who hog the spotlight and leave her in the shadows. So why is it that even an icy blizzard can’t temper the combustible heat between them?

Robyn is the successful music director of a radio station in Chicago. That’s probably as far as you can get from the fat, teased and scorned teenage girl she’s been in high school in a famous ski resort where everybody expected her to never leave town and just take over her parents’ bakery. But in this story, she’s going back for a high school reunion. She intends to show them all how far she has come. For that, she’s planning to bring along a (semi) celebrity (her ex) and she’s also volunteered to organize the traditional charity auction.

Only, it doesn’t work out as planned. Her ex cancels at the last possible moment which doesn’t only mean she has to show up at the reunion alone, it also means she has no celebrity to emcee the charity auction. She’ll look like a bungling idiot again. Her best friend Karen urges her to worry less and instead take the time to enjoy herself and “find some hunky ski guys to play hide-the-mitten with.”

Sean Trenton seems to fit that bill. Instant attraction, sexy hunk, a ski patroller (no celebrity!), fun and easy to talk to – the perfect material for a fling for the time Robyn stays in her former home town. That is, until Robyn realizes who Sean exactly is: a former winner of an Olympics medal (skiing). And just like that, Sean is out of the running. Robyn doesn’t want another involvement with someone famous because when it’s over (as a fling tends to do), there’ll be constant reminders of their time together thanks to the celebrity status.

Sean is at a crossroads in his life. Two years ago, he had to leave behind his life as a very successful and famous skier because of an accident. He settled into his life as a ski patroller fairly well but he’s looking for a change to spice things up and make them more like they had been before. For that, he contemplates a career in media as a sports announcer which would give him back some of his former life, he thinks – fame and an easy access to women. Of course, for the women part to work out it would help if he could work up a real sexual interest for the first time in two years. On top of that, or possibly the reason for it, there’s also something mysterious going on which makes Sean afraid to go horizontal with women.

So Sean is on the lookout for a likely candidate to get him over his anxiety concerning bedroom activities. For that, he’s at a bar after work together with his friend Todd. Sean sees a woman who is exactly the type of woman he went for before his accident – and who looks like a “sure thing” – and nada. He sees Robyn, he takes notice and things perk up. Robyn’s very different from the type of woman he went after before but Sean isn’t about to complain or question his attraction.

And that’s only the beginning. Robyn’s and Sean’s reasons for getting involved with each other and what they want from each other change again and again as they get to know each other better. Paralleling this, they also figure out who they are and what they want for their lives. Robyn faces her past and Sean faces his future. I liked that their problems partly revolved around the same issues (like the question of fame, for example). Both Robyn and Sean deal with their problems in a slightly immature way in the beginning (Robyn wanting to show off, Sean more or less hiding from it) but this changes. I also liked that they get to know each other (translation: they talk), their attraction and chemistry, and the dialog in general.

Todd leaned back in the booth and threw an arm over the back, blocking her. “Come on. Take pity on the guy. His dry spell has lasted longer than the Sahara’s. Help him get the ball rolling again.”
If Sean could have crawled into a hole and died, he would have. The heat in his face now had nothing to do with Robyn or the fire crackling nearby.
Robyn’s lips quivered with the need to smile, and her husky voice dripped with laughter. “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in rolling Sean’s balls.”
“Sean’s ball,” Todd corrected, “I said he’s trying to get his ball rolling, not balls.”
“You know,” Sean said in the lightest tone he could manage, “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this conversation about my balls.”
“Or lack of them.” Todd grinned. (ch. 2)*

If I would be asked to come up with something to complain about, the only thing that comes to mind is that it’s rather predictable in what will be the big conflict. You know the stumbling blocks on their way to their HEA the moment they’re mentioned the first time in the story. You know that it’s coming but before that you’re treated to watching two people trying to figure out what they want from each other and what they could mean to each other. You see them making a connection and building a relationship, as unlikely as that might have seemed at the beginning.

Nearly in the same vein, predictable but not really bothering, I see the reason for Sean’s reluctance to get intimate with a woman and the way Robyn’s former tormentors at school act today. I wasn’t exactly disappointed, that’s too strong a word, but maybe resigned because it wasn’t the big deal I was lead to expect based on the way he behaved (which seems to be the case rather often with romance novels). But then again, Sean’s story is about finding himself and growing, so it fits. And the way Robyn’s former high school tormentors treated her after all these years…let’s just say I have the impression that in this kind of story, romance novels are peopled with characters who don’t grow up by obligation. Or as Sean says:

“Yeah, it’s amazing,” he said and Janice and Gigi exchanged looks of mutual satisfaction. “Amazing that ten years later, you still act like you’re in high school.” (ch. 11)*

Snowbound is a nice, fun, warm and heartfelt straight contemporary romance with two likable and well-drawn protagonists who share a strong attraction and have good chemistry. I really enjoyed reading Snowbound and I would love to read more contemporaries by Ione.

Verdict: I liked it. (strong 4/5)

* the page wouldn’t tell you much because I read it as an ebook

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Re-Read Challenge: “The Return Of Luke McGuire” By Justine Davis

1 Oct

re-read-challenge-2009

Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009
This month:Re-Read Challenge: September!

Davis, Justine - Return of Luke McGuire
GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Mills & Boon, Silhouette Sensation, 2001

AVAILABILITY: out of print

You always want…

Dark and dangerous Luke McGuire was everything shy Amelia Blair had been fascinated by as a girl but too terrified to go near. And now here she was, the only person in the whole town prepared to give him the time of day, caring enough to stand up for him…brave enough to get close.

What you can’t have

Luke knew that Amelia was off-limits. But, reformed or not, he’d never been able to abide by the rules. He only hoped that the quiet beauty would fall for the man he had become instead of the one he used to be.

Then

The Return of Luke McGuire was the first category novel I ever read. This was back in 2002 and for a long time, this category novel stayed the only one. But I loved it enough and remembered it fondly enough that when I started to read category novels more regularly 1-2 years back, I bought and still buy novels by Davis even though they have a slight romantic suspense bend to it now.

Now

The Return of Luke McGuire is one of those novels where the blurb doesn’t do the story justice. I know, this goes practically for nearly every romance novel, but I always think it especially annoying when 1) it can lead to slightly false assumptions about the story and 2) when the real story is so much more than what you would expect reading the blurb.

Yes, Amelia thinks of herself as quiet and unassuming. A mouse. But she’s determined to be the bravest mouse she could be. And as the story develops, she learns there are different kinds of strength and that perhaps hidden underneath her reserve there is a fire raging that would do her namesake Amelia Earhart justice. And yes, Amelia is drawn to Luke despite herself.

But Luke doesn’t think Amelia off-limits exactly. Sure, it’s present because he’s been the bad boy of the town and Amelia is the goody-goody girl of the town, but it’s not really as important between them as it might seem because of the back blurb. And well, Luke doesn’t see Amelia for the first time and thinks, “wow, but uhm, she’s off-limits.” His attraction is growing slowly and he starts to notice more and more things about her as he gets to know her better. He hesitates, yes, but not because he thinks himself not good enough for her or something like that.

The novel starts when Luke comes back to his home town because he received a letter from his younger brother David asking for help. Before this letter, there wasn’t actually any (real) contact between Luke and David. Luke left his home town the day after he graduated from high school and hasn’t regretted or looked back since then. Now David hopes he can come and live with Luke to escape their controlling and nasty mother, something Luke knows won’t be possible. So he isn’t sure if coming is the right move. Besides, he only has bad memories of the town and is glad he left all the nastiness he faced there behind.

But despite all of this, he does, and that is when he meets Amelia who’s a friend of David and owner of the town’s bookshop. David has acquired a worrisome set of friends trying to set off his mother and live up to his older brother’s bad boy reputation. Amelia and Luke’s concern for David brings them closer together. Without David, Amelia and Luke probably would never have talked to each other, at least not in Luke’s home town where just his being back brings out some of his old reactions to the way people treat him. They assume the worst of him because of his history and he doesn’t bother to show them he’d changed. But there is David. And trying to help David brings Amelia and Luke closer together, makes Amelia discover new things about herself, and makes Luke face his past and deal with it in a way so that he really can leave it all behind.

If there is one thing where this novel falters a bit it’s the way the villains are depicted. David’s nasty friends are up to some very bad things but I thought what they are willing to do in the end, though actually believable, still a bit out of nowhere. But more than that, I thought the people’s antagonism towards Luke slightly overdone. He did some cruel and bad things in his youth, yes, but that was nearly ten years ago. When he comes back, nobody (except Amelia of course) gives him the benefit of the doubt, they just assume the worst. Even more, they go and outright say it to him. I don’t know, I just thought that really rude and intolerant, and that everyone was like that was just a bit hard to believe. (To be fair, there is some change at the end with some people, but still.)

But that is just a very small complaint. The Return of Luke McGuire offers more than enough to make up for it. There’s the believable and slowly developing romance between two people who look like they have nothing in common and only meet because of special circumstances, Amelia and Luke. There’s the relationship between the brothers Luke and David that starts out with Luke as David’s hero for all the wrong reasons and that needs to adjust as the story and characters develop. There’s David’s struggle with growing up and finding his own way. There’s Luke’s struggle with his past and what his mother did to him (IMO the most important thread of the story). And there’s Amelia who makes all this possible and who discovers that maybe she was wrong to think of herself as a mouse.

Verdict: Despite my disbelief about the total rudeness of all people, 5/5.

Ally Blake – “Dating The Rebel Tycoon”

13 Aug

Blake, Ally - Dating the Rebel Tycoon
GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Harlequin Romance, 2009

WHY THIS NOVEL: I like Ally Blake’s voice.

As a gawky teenager, Rosie knew she never stood a chance with heartthrob Cameron Kelly. She had pigtails and glasses, and washed dishes by night to help support her and her mother, while Cameron came from one of the richest and most revered families in Brisbane.

Years later they meet again, and Rosie finds herself on a date with the devastatingly attractive billionaire! There’s something different about him–he’s darker, more intense, dangerous. But she’s determined to ignore his three-dates-only rule and get to the heart of the rebel tycoon…

This is the third novel I’ve read by Ally Blake. Although it didn’t blow me away either, I really like Blake’s voice and will continue to read her. I think this is the novel I did like best so far.

The blurb is actually a bit misleading because both Rosie (short for Rosalind) and Cameron (Cam) are commitment shy. If there’s one problem with this novel, it’s that I had trouble buying into Cam’s reason for being that way.

Cam has trust issues because when he was around seventeen, he discovered his almighty father cheated on Cam’s mother. So he knows “that even the most solid relationships ultimately fail beneath the weight of secrets and lies” (118). What I knew about this wasn’t enough to make me believe his “I do fun but I don’t do relationship” stance.

But even if there would have been more, I guess I would have had trouble buying into that idea. Is it really that you don’t believe in relationships because someone you loved, honored, respected cheated on the partner? Wouldn’t it occur to you once that you are your own person and responsible for what you do? (If not, it makes you appear a bit stupid, IMO.) Or maybe it’s the thought that the person Cam is with could cheat on him that makes Cam commitment shy. Either way, I didn’t think it a strong enough reason. But it did explain why Cam is estranged from his family.

I had less trouble believing in Rosie’s reason for why she’s not really looking for something solid. She’d seen firsthand what opening up to someone can do to a person. Her mother never was the same after her father had left them (not that Rose actually knew him). This meant a childhood for Rosie that rendered her invisible at home no matter what she did. Like being good at school for example which, by the way, was another place where Rosie felt invisible, especially with her crush on Cam. She was the poor student that went to school with rich kids thanks to a scholarship. So Rosie has more than enough experience with what it feels like to be left out and ignored (and a failed relationship would mean just that to her) so as a rule, she dates only men who for whatever reason can’t make a commitment.

So both Cameron and Rosie actually make their decision to stay out of serious relationships because of something they witnessed, not something that happened to themselves (they’d never been in a relationship that had failed). Yet I’m more willing to go with Rosie’s reason than with Cameron’s. Maybe it’s really because I’m not sure why Cameron thinks that way. I guess I would have had less trouble if he’d be afraid to be the one who gets cheated on. But that’s not really what it sounds like when he explains himself.

In any way, my impression that Cameron’s reason was a bit weak wasn’t a deal breaker for this novel. It’s more like a minor niggle that made me sometimes feel left out, but nothing more. And contrary to what you probably would expect from a woman with a background like Rosie’s, Rosie isn’t a shy person (though she has her insecurities). She’s an open person who knows herself pretty well. Rosie says what she thinks, she says how she sees things, and she isn’t afraid to look at the truth.

Together with her thoughts and feelings about her own father, it’s this that enables her to draw Cameron out and to get him to reconcile with his family. She finally makes him see that humans can make mistakes and that even he, who doesn’t want to hurt/disappoint anyone he cares for (his reason for staying away from other people), inadvertently hurts people by his behavior. Rosie shows Cam the value of talking openly about things. They (eventually) do this in their dealings with each other and Cam does it eventually with his family as well.

What I liked this novel for, and where it really shines, IMO, is in detailing what happens when you get to know someone. The reader really sees Rosie and Cameron dating. Their first date covers several chapters and they actually do talk. It’s not the “they talked for hours about…” thing. There’s flirting, there’s fun, and it’s clear that there’s always an undercurrent of attraction between them. So although the characters agree to a date for reasons that has nothing to do with pursuing a serious relationship – Cameron thinks to use Rosie as a distraction from the problems he has with his family and his father, for example – this attraction of course gets the better of them in the end.

Verdict: I liked it (4/5).

Cindi Myers – “The Man Most Likely”

24 Jul

Myers, Cindi - The Man Most Likely
GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Harlequin American Romance, 2009

SERIES:

WHY THIS NOVEL: This review at The Good, The Bad, The Unread

With her voluptuous, plus-size figure, Angela Krizova knows she doesn’t fit the male fantasy of the perfect woman. That’s fine, because Bryan Perry isn’t her idea of the ideal man, either. The gorgeous ski-bum-turned-corporate-exec is just the type she avoids like the plague.

Except he won’t take no for an answer. With Bryan pursuing her as if she’s the most desirable woman in Crested Butte, Angela’s starting to believe it just a little herself. Is the most irresistible guy in town really falling for her? Or is he the man most likely to break her heart?

I like to read stories where characters, especially the heroine, are not perfectly looking, probably because it makes the story more real. When I learned that Cindi Myers’s The Man Most Likely features a plus-size heroine – who even stayed that way until the end – I wanted to read it. Even better, it sounded like a nice story between two main characters who struggle against expectations others have of them because of looks.

So yes, part of the conflict in this story is the way Angela looks. And that she owns a chocolate shop plays right into the image of a woman who is plus-sized. But Angela is so much more than just crazy about chocolate. She has a sexy voice, which attracted Bryan first when they talked on the phone, a sense of humor, is nice and warm, and a very good actress of the town’s theater group. In the course of the story it turns out that she’s not only a good actress on stage but in other areas of her life as well and that her image of herself as a confident woman who owns a successful business is not completely true.

But Bryan also has to struggle with expectations of other people. He recently said good-bye to his slacker ways as a ski bum when he decided to finally make use of his degree. Now his friends are betting on how long he’ll last in the job as assistant manager at a hotel before he comes back to his former life of fun and play, his boss expects him to play the corporate career game, and Angela expects him to just play with her because of his and her looks. Between all these expectations, Bryan has to find his way to what he wants for and expects of himself.

I liked how all conflicts and problems revolved around expectations. I thought it gave the story a very real life feeling. And I really liked how the main conflict brought Angela and Bryan’s issues with expectations together. Bryan really wants to succeed at what he’s doing but Angela is not exactly the woman one expects at his side for that (as Angela points out to him). Angela really wants to believe in Bryan but because of a past experience with a man like him she expects him to turn his back on her sooner or later. They make an unexpected couple if judged only on the way they look (together).

But thankfully, that is not all that counts in love. And The Man Most Likely tells us just that. What better way to celebrate love and life?

Verdict: A nice and warm story about finding love with an unexpected partner. (4/5)